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Society is enormously in need of organ donors

By Jimmy Masombuka

Buhlebesizwe – Vlaklaagte 2 – South Africa is in need of tissues and organs. According to Samantha Volschenk, Executive Director of Organ Donor Foundation in South Africa, there are more than 4 300 children and adults awaiting for organ or cornea transplant. Organ donation is the surgical process of removing damaged or failing organ or tissue from one person (organ donor) and placing it into another person (organ recipient). The recent statistics denoted the fact that only 0, 2% South Africans registered to donate their organs. This implies there is thoughtful need to educate the society with regard to the importance of organ and tissue donation.

Organs that can be transplanted include heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, intestines and pancreas. Furthermore, tissues that can be transplanted include heart valves and other heart tissue, bone, tendons, ligaments, skin and parts of the eye such as cornea and sclera. “Concern from community is that once a person donated his/her kidney will be affected. This is not true. Kidney donor can live a normal live as long as the person left with one kidney is careful and protect it from injury,” said Zanele Masilela, health professional practitioner from Thembalethu Clinic under Thembisile Hani Local Municipality.

Various cultural beliefs affects the organ and tissue donation. “We want to be buried with our bodies intact so that our ancestors could welcome us as the unique family. We believe that the body is associated with personhood of the deceased,” said Dr Phepsile Maseko, national co-ordinator of the Traditional Healers Organisation. Ikosi Sipho Mahlangu, chairperson of the National House of Traditional Leaders from Mpumalanga Province supported the organ donation process and hope it will enhance the lives of people.

The attitudes towards decision whether an individual should donate organ or tissue is influenced by culture. The unspoken assumptions regarding health and death has an impact on health communication. The implication is that the culture maps meaning through which the world is understood and interpreted. In deep traditional rural societies, KwaNdebele culture determines how deceased news are communicated. Grief, emotions and rituals are demonstrated in a dignified manner. Organ and tissue harvesting is a sensitive subject for such community while effective awareness campaigns are critical to educate the society to enhance donation at large.